Most Wetsuit Companies Are Not Owned by Surfers

Most Wetsuit Companies Are Not Owned by Surfers

Wetsuits have become a crucial component of many water-based activities such as surfing, diving, and swimming.

The evolution of wetsuits has been rapid, with technology advancing rapidly and innovative designs emerging every year. There are several major wetsuit companies, and while the majority of them were started by surfers, most of them are now own by big conglomerates who mostly focus on their apparel. 

This article will delve into the major wetsuit companies and the corporations that own them.

  1. O'Neill

Jack O'Neill founded O'Neill in 1952, making it the oldest wetsuit company globally, and it remains one of the leading wetsuit manufacturers to date. However, the company has gone through a series of ownership changes.

In 2007, O'Neill was sold to Dutch investment company, AlpInvest Partners, by the founder's son, Pat O'Neill. In 2019, O'Neill was acquired by Marquee Brands, a US-based brand acquisition and licensing company. Despite the ownership changes, O'Neill has remained a significant player in the wetsuit industry, producing high-quality wetsuits, surfboards, and accessories.

  1. Quiksilver

Quiksilver is a leading surfwear and wetsuit brand, founded in 1969 by Alan Green and John Law. In the early years, Quiksilver focused on producing boardshorts but later expanded into wetsuits, accessories, and clothing.

In 2015, Quiksilver filed for bankruptcy, leading to the closure of its retail stores in the US. However, the company re-emerged in 2016, under the ownership of Oaktree Capital Management, a global investment firm. Oaktree Capital acquired Quiksilver and merged it with the Billabong Group, which it had acquired earlier that year.

Today, Quiksilver is a subsidiary of Boardriders, a global action sports company that owns several leading brands, including Roxy, DC Shoes, and Billabong.

  1. Rip Curl

Rip Curl is an Australian-based surfwear and wetsuit company that has been in operation since 1969. The company produces wetsuits, surfboards, and accessories for surfers worldwide.

In 2019, Rip Curl was acquired by Kathmandu Holdings, a New Zealand-based outdoor apparel and equipment company. The acquisition cost Kathmandu Holdings $350 million, making it one of the biggest deals in the surf industry's history.

Despite the change in ownership, Rip Curl remains a prominent player in the wetsuit market, renowned for its innovative designs and commitment to sustainability.

  1. Billabong

Billabong is a globally recognized surfwear brand that was founded in 1973 on the Gold Coast of Australia. The company produces high-quality wetsuits, accessories, and clothing for surfers worldwide.

In 2018, Boardriders Inc. acquired Billabong International, making it a subsidiary of the company. Boardriders Inc. also owns several other leading surfwear brands such as Roxy and DC Shoes.

  1. Xcel Wetsuits

Xcel Wetsuits is a wetsuit brand that produces wetsuits and accessories for surfers worldwide. The company was founded in 1982 by Ed D'Ascoli, who remains the company's CEO to date.

Unlike the other companies mentioned above, Xcel Wetsuits remains an independently owned company, with Ed D'Ascoli holding the majority ownership. The company has expanded rapidly over the years, opening retail stores in several locations worldwide, including the US, Europe, and Asia.

  1. Patagonia

Patagonia is an American-based clothing company that produces high-quality outdoor apparel, including wetsuits. The company was founded in 1973 by Yvon Chou.

Patagonia, as a company, is a privately held company, meaning that it is not publicly traded on any stock exchange. This makes it more difficult to track down who exactly owns the company, as they are not required to disclose such information publicly. In fact, Patagonia is known for being quite secretive when it comes to its ownership structure.

7. Hurley

Hurley is a brand that has been synonymous with surfing and beachwear since its inception. Founded by Bob Hurley in 1999, the company quickly became one of the most popular names in the surfing world, thanks in part to its innovative wetsuits that are designed to keep surfers warm and comfortable in even the coldest of waters.

However, when it comes to the question of who owns Hurley wetsuits, the answer is somewhat complex. The brand was originally founded as an independent company, but it was later acquired by Nike, Inc., in 2002.

For many years, Hurley operated as a subsidiary of Nike, with the company focusing primarily on the development and production of surfing-related apparel and accessories. This included a wide range of products, from board shorts and t-shirts to backpacks and sunglasses, but the wetsuits remained one of the brand's key offerings.

In 2019, however, Nike announced that it was selling the Hurley brand to a company called Bluestar Alliance LLC. Bluestar is a New York-based private equity firm that specializes in the acquisition and management of consumer brands. The company has a diverse portfolio that includes everything from fashion labels to household names like the Brookstone and Catherine Malandrino.


8. Epic Tide

Owned by a sole owner - a surfer - who decided back in 2015 that the current crop of wetsuits with either super expensive and too restrictive and with little flexibility and range of motion.  They were also getting very expensive and they were lucky to last 3/4 of a season.